Wen says 'step forward' in ties with Myanmar: Chinese media

Wen says `step forward` in ties with Myanmar: Chinese media Yangon: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Thursday told Myanmar's junta chief that his visit to the military-ruled country saw an improvement in ties between the neighbours, state media reported.

Wen made the comments during a meeting with Senior General Than Shwe on his three-day trip, which comes ahead of Myanmar's elections later this year and is the first by a Chinese prime minister to the country in 16 years.

"Wen Jiabao said here on Thursday that the consensus and agreements reached with Myanmar during his visit marked a step forward in their bilateral ties," Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

The two countries were expected to sign contracts, including ones related to the energy sector and hydropower projects, a Myanmar official earlier told agency.

China is the junta's key ally and trade partner, and an eager investor in the isolated state's sizeable natural resources. In November its top oil producer began construction of a pipeline across Myanmar.

But ties between the two countries frayed last August when fighting between Myanmar's isolated ruling junta and rebel ethnic armies in the remote northeast drove tens of thousands of refugees into China.

Analysts said Beijing would be concerned about further instability on its Western border and that the issue was likely to come up at the talks during Wen's visit.

Wen arrived in Yangon yesterday afternoon amid tight security for what the state-controlled New Light of Myanmar newspaper said was a "goodwill visit".